(Danny Garcia, left, connects with a right hand; photo credit: Joe Camporeale, USA Today)
Over 12 rounds, what many expected to be a foregone conclusion got interesting down the stretch – with junior welterweight Danny Garcia taking an unexpectedly close-ish and hard fought decision over Zab Judah at the $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on Showtime Saturday night.
The action may not quite have lived up to the constant promises of blood at various pre-fight press conferences, and there weren’t any street corner melees or stomp-outs, but fans got just about what they bargained for, plus an extra dash of salt from Judah.
In the live co-feature, middleweight Fernando Guerrero toughed out a good six-plus rounds against Peter Quillin before succumbing to the larger fighter’s punching power.
The tension inside the Center in was palpable as one of the city’s own, Judah, was able to find more success against the potential star in Garcia than most other opponents have in the last little while.
Just as it has against most upper echelon opponents his entire career, Judah’s funky movement proved to be more style than substance as Garcia shot right hands to the body in the 1st and 2nd rounds. Garcia’s use of his right hand as both a penalty and a pre-emptive strike told the tale, and Judah wasn’t able to move past it, for the most part.
In fact, in the first few stanzas, Garcia threw just about every type of right hand imaginable, easily outworking Judah, and nullifying the occasional straight left that the southpaw landed.
A ho-hum 5th round was changed by a Garcia right hand in the final minute that wobbled Judah and sent him to the ropes. Clowning his way out of trouble, Judah waved Garcia in, but still managed to absorb more punches against the ropes than he wanted. An early assault from Garcia in round 6 had Judah covering up and getting nailed on the escape. If there was any question about how Judah was doing, it was answered by another right hand that had him doing a sort of improvised Charleston jig. Judah spent the remainder of the round trying to stay outside the line of fire
Garcia stalked in the 7th, while the New Yorker tried to twitch his way back into the fight, not throwing much with conviction. The highlight of the round was likely that Judah began trying to buy time with a low blow complaint that was overruled, even though he managed a few connects.
A solid round for Judah in the 8th was interrupted by a right hand that put him down and cut him under his left eye. Up without much issue, he nonetheless backpedalled and tried to avoid much action and reach the bell. The errant tantrum from Judah aside, Garcia continued landing quality blows in round 9, though his activity dipped some.
Judah, seemingly understanding that more effort was needed in the 10th, punctuated the round with a left hand that may have hurt Garcia, who played it off well but stopped working as much in any visible way. And Garcia boxed his way through the 11th, jabbing his feet back under him and being patient. But an accidental headbutt opened up a cut on Garcia’s scalp line and he was again stunned by a left hand and looked to be losing his legs quickly.
Another headbutt halted Judah’s momentum and cut both men in the 12th round, and the pace slowed to a more comfortable one for Garcia until a few exchanges came about. An entertaining final minute saw both fighters landing with zeal, bringing the crowd to their feet.
Scores of 115-112, 114-112 and 116-111 for Garcia sealed Judah’s fate and served him another slice of the same humble pie he’s found himself munching in the last few years.
That Garcia won the junior welterweight bout wasn’t a huge surprise. But Judah mustering a few moments that brought doubt into play for the 25-year-old Garcia brought with them a couple of pulse irregularities. At 42-8 (29 KO) and two no contests, Judah seems to have found his zen — even if said zen rests in the land of gatekeepers rather than big time players. Some of his post-fight comments may have been the most honest and realistic he’s ever delivered.
As some have already postulated, Judah seems to have done enough in losing to be able to demand another solid payday.
The still undefeated and trinket-adorned Garcia, 26-0 (16 KO), answered a couple of lingering questions about his stamina and big fight ability in the bout. For instance, he can get through a more difficult 12 rounds, and yes, his chin is solid. However, an aged and unreliable Judah was able to shake him up a bit late and create doubt. In a deep and versatile junior welterweight division, that should be a cause for concern among Garcia’s handlers.
In the co-feature, Peter Quillin upped his record to 29-0 (21 KO) by scoring a TKO in seven rounds over Fernando Guerrero, 25-2 (19 KO).
The rare pairing of Al Haymon-handled fighters was about as fun as domination gets, with the WBO middleweight belt-holder Quillin using his height, length and punching power advantage to set Guerrero up for damaging right hands, despite having to navigate some rough waters along the way.
A slower 1st round saw both men mostly looking to find angles, with the southpaw Guerrero looking for a looping left hand to connect on. Quillin began lining his opponent up for right hands early, one of which put Guerrero down, and flat out for a spell. Up on unsteady legs, he was swarmed against the ropes and fell over courtesy of another right hand landed, the knockdown legitimized.
Guerrero looked for long overhand left in 3rd, seemingly rejuvenated, but a bit out-gunned by the larger man. He was wobbled at end of 4th, but otherwise did well in the round, landing some nice southpaw lefts.
The 5th round told a similar tale, with Guerrero establishing looping left hands from the outside but finding himself countered with hard rights in the late going. The 6th round was likely Guerrero’s best, as he landed a series of overhand lefts and clowned plenty. Still, he dodged fire to score points.
Guerrero attempted to keep his advantage up with the left hands in round 7, but a nasty right hook-left uppercut from Quillin put Guerrero down, though more as a result of falling into the padded portion of the corner hard enough to cause a dent. Some follow up right hands sent Guerrero to the canvas for a final time and the bout was promptly called off at 1:30.
Showcasing the best and worst of both guys, the fight was better than predicted by most, but the result was precisely as anticipated. Guerrero’s chin was and is questionable in the wake of his loss to Grady Brewer, and Quillin remains hittable with certain repetitive shots.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the aim) for Quillin, the win leaves him with few options. His options are to essentially surrender negotiating control to someone else in Martinez, Chavez, Jr. or even Golovkin, or to paste mandatories in the hope of earning a better share of a big fight. Scepticism may follow him on his walkabout, but he’s marching toward a deserved big fight.
Guerrero, on the other hand, is due for a wakeup call in terms of identity. Is he a bruising junior middleweight? Or is he a slightly out-sized middleweight who prefers to box to set up his shots? It’s a difficult decision to make, but he looked significantly smaller than the WBO middleweight titlist. If it’s a chin issue, that’s something else entirely. But if not, more scrutiny is due as it pertains to his in-ring goals.